Transhumanism

Cancer treatment is a ‘double-edged sword’ by allowing survivors to pass on their tumour-causing genes

From Cancer treatment lets survivors pass on their tumour genes | Daily Mail Online

Because of the quality of our healthcare in western society, we have almost removed natural selection as the “janitor of the gene pool”.
‘Natural selection in the past had an ample opportunity to eliminate defective genes introduced by mutations.
He said: ‘However, natural selection has been significantly reduced in the past 100 to 150 years, and the direct consequence of this process is that nearly every individual born into a population can pass genes to the next generation, while some 150 years ago, only 50 per cent or less of individuals had this chance.
‘Unfortunately, the accumulation of genetic mutations over time and across multiple generations is like a delayed death sentence.
‘Allowing more people with cancer genes [to] survive may boost cancer gene accumulation. Patients who survive it will have a chance to pass this predisposition to the next generation.

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Rather than just removing cancers, the researchers add patients should undergo genetic engineering that ‘turns off’ their tumour-causing genes.
Professor Henneberg added: ‘Assuming that the increasing genetic load underlies cancer incidence as one of the contributing factors, the only way to reduce it remains genetic engineering- repair of defective portions of the DNA or their blockage by methylation and similar approaches.
‘These techniques, though theoretically possible, are not yet practically available.
‘They will, however, need to be developed as they provide the only human-made alternative to the disappearing action of natural selection’.

Fascinating perspective and research. I think we are totally unequipped to understand the long-term implications of how we are changing the human body.

Levandowski founds a religion

From The Self Driving Car Whiz Who Fell from Grace | WIRED

Anthony Levandowski will be firmly on the side of the machines. In September 2015, the multi-millionaire engineer at the heart of the patent and trade secrets lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, Google’s self-driving car company, founded a religious organization called Way of the Future. Its purpose, according to previously unreported state filings, is nothing less than to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.”

documents filed with California show that Levandowski is Way of the Future’s CEO and President, and that it aims “through understanding and worship of the Godhead, [to] contribute to the betterment of society.”

There are grave allegations pending Levandowski’s head, and this profile by Wired is all but positive. It would be unfortunate for transhumanism, as an intellectual movement, if those claims end up substantiated.

Right now, the press is giving too much religious emphasis to transhumanism without merit. But I eventually expect some speculators to try and turn it into an actual religion for pure speculation.

What does it mean to be a human?

From Why You Will One Day Have a Brain Computer Interface | WIRED

Bryan Johnson, an entrepreneur who in 2013 made a bundle by selling his company, Braintree, to Paypal for $800 million. Last year, he used $100 million of that to start Kernel, a company that is exploring how to build and implant chips into the skulls of those with some form of neurological disease and dysfunction, to reprogram their neural networks to restore some of their lost abilities.

When asked why humans have to manipulate their brains, Jonhnson replies:

Humans currently reign supreme on planet Earth, because we are the most powerful form of intelligence. So therefore, we decide who we eat, who we have as pets, who we allow to go extinct, who is saved, who is neutered, who can reproduce. We are currently developing a new form of intelligence in the form of AI that is increasingly capable, whether it’s conscious or not. For humans to be relevant in a matter of decades there is no choice other than to unlock our brains and intervene in our cognitive evolution. If you try to imagine a world where we are happy 30, 40, 50 years from now, there is no version of that future where we have not been able to figure out how to read and write our neural code.

I met one of the neuroscientists behind Kernel at the TED Global 2017 conference. Quite interesting conversation.

Fernand Léger and the Rise of the Man-Machine

From Fernand Léger and the Rise of the Man-Machine

Early in life, Léger embraced a transcendent, quasi-Futurist love of technological energy along with the Cubist notion of putting the squeeze on: fracturing objects into sharp geometric shapes. But soon, his brand of Cubism evolved into an automaton-esque figurative style distinguished by his focus on cylindrical forms. These cylindrical android figures express a synchronization between human and machine that is most relevant today given the coming artificial intelligence workplace. When we look at Léger with new eyes, we see that he sought to express the noise, dynamism, and speed of the new technology machinery in which he and we find ourselves immersed.

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The military theme in Léger’s oeuvre remains prominent in post-WWI paintings like “La partie de cartes” (“The Card Game,” 1917), where three decorated soldiers tumble out of themselves and ripple across the picture plane, merging into an ecstatic ménage à trois through the interlacing repetitions of their machine forms. This post-flesh, man-machine unanimity could be seen as a precedent, suggestive of our current post-human condition.

The resplendent mélange of seated tin men — all evocative of that famous one from Oz — displays a frantic, cybernetic logic in terms of the painting’s visual tactility, with once lumpen and deadlocked male forms set flowing in jerks and spasms across the surface. The artist has systematically imposed on them a vibrating restlessness through labyrinthine extensions and doublings, making their flesh undergo steps of annihilation into transubstantiation. The composition’s flickering, staccato repetitions create the impression of a rolling bacchanalia where human forms transcend their fleshiness and extend themselves through motorized re-embodiment. Léger seems to suggest that the truth of life is found not through chance, as one might glean from the card game, but through the technological apparatus of bodies tumbling into a field of circuits.

The Social Pressure To Become Transhuman 

From Super-intelligence and eternal life: transhumanism’s faithful follow it blindly into a future for the elite

One problem is that a highly competitive social environment doesn’t lend itself to diverse ways of being. Instead it demands increasingly efficient behaviour. Take students, for example. If some have access to pills that allow them to achieve better results, can other students afford not to follow? This is already a quandary. Increasing numbers of students reportedly pop performance-enhancing pills. And if pills become more powerful, or if the enhancements involve genetic engineering or intrusive nanotechnology that offer even stronger competitive advantages, what then? Rejecting an advanced technological orthodoxy could potentially render someone socially and economically moribund (perhaps evolutionarily so), while everyone with access is effectively forced to participate to keep up.

Are You Living in a Simulation?

From Are You Living in a Simulation?

This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.

The Spiritual Side of Transhumanism

From God in the machine: my strange journey into transhumanism | Technology | The Guardian

What makes the transhumanist movement so seductive is that it promises to restore, through science, the transcendent hopes that science itself has obliterated. Transhumanists do not believe in the existence of a soul, but they are not strict materialists, either. Kurzweil claims he is a “patternist”, characterising consciousness as the result of biological processes, “a pattern of matter and energy that persists over time”. These patterns, which contain what we tend to think of as our identity, are currently running on physical hardware – the body – that will one day give out. But they can, at least in theory, be transferred onto supercomputers, robotic surrogates or human clones. A pattern, transhumanists would insist, is not the same as a soul. But it’s not difficult to see how it satisfies the same longing. At the very least, a pattern suggests that there is some essential core of our being that will survive and perhaps transcend the inevitable degradation of flesh.

Of course, mind uploading has spurred all kinds of philosophical anxieties. If the pattern of your consciousness is transferred onto a computer, is the pattern “you” or a simulation of your mind? One camp of transhumanists have argued that true resurrection can happen only if it is bodily resurrection. They tend to favour cryonics and bionics, which promise to resurrect the entire body or else supplement the living form with technologies to indefinitely extend life.

If you never heard of Transhumanism, this is a great place to start.